This 10-year-old boy wasn't even told why he was being arrested after he arrived at school.
When John Benjamin Haygood, a 10-year-old boy in Florida with autism, reported to his former school for standardized testing, neither he nor his mother had any idea what would ensue on that day. The pair arrived at Okeechobee Achievement Academy, a preschool through 12th grade public school, last week to participate in the state testing when the school’s resource officer recognized John Benjamin and informed them that there was a warrant out for his arrest.
Though the warrant was valid, everything else surrounding the actual arrest is what has sparked a controversy and caused John Benjamin’s mother, Luanne, to seek legal counsel. She claims that they were not made aware of the warrant nor the charges against him prior to his arrest, despite the fact that the incident that warranted his arrest occurred in October 2016.
According to John Benjamin’s paraprofessional educator at the time, on October 27 he was acting disruptive by throwing paper balls around class at other students.
“When John Benjamin was asked to go to timeout he refused,” according to a probable cause affidavit. The educator “attempted to remove the student and sent him back to the timeout place. At this point, John Benjamin started kicking and scratching and punching” him.
John Benjamin was restrained and escorted out of the classroom for his behavior, and he was expelled from school that same month, though it’s unclear if it was because of this incident. He has since been homeschooled, and the day they came in for testing last week was his first time back at school since his expulsion.
When the resource officer began the process of arresting John Benjamin, Luanne can be heard in the background asking if he has the same rights as an adult. Since they had not yet been told exactly why he was being arrested, she says,
“Does he have to be told?”
“He doesn’t have to be told. He has a warrant,” one officer responds.
“So not even an adult has the right to be told when they’re arrested why?” Luanne asks in return.
Meanwhile, John Benjamin can be heard crying and saying, “I don’t want to be touched. I don’t like to be touched.”
John Benjamin was diagnosed with autism just two years earlier and given an individualized education plan to help accommodate his needs as he continued with school. However, he claimed that he didn’t like his assigned paraprofessional and that the aide was hurting him. After they tried to have the school change his aide and they refused, John Benjamin lashed out, resulting in the October incident.
Luanne recognizes that it’s her son’s autism that causes his behavioral problems and is now angry with the school for not being able to accommodate her child’s special needs and not informing her earlier about the warrant. John Benjamin is being charged with an outstanding warrant for battery on a school board employee, which is a third-degree felony. The 10-year-old boy spent the night in juvenile detention, where he claims to have only received one meal during his stay.
Luanne believes this was a “power play” by the school, but she hopes her video will warrant an examination into any wrongdoing by the school or police and raise awareness about the mistreatment of students with disabilities.
“Now, maybe something will be changed. Now, maybe somebody will believe me and other parents when we say our kids are being mistreated,” Haygood told WPEC. “It’s nationwide, and these children are not getting the services they are guaranteed under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act,”
John Benjamin has a court date set for May and Luanne intends to pursue legal action to fight the charges against her son. Watch the video below to see his arrest.